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BUÍOCHAS LE KIA Review: I think I found my new favourite car


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PLUG-IN BABY: The Sorento now has a hybrid version

PLUG-IN BABY: The Sorento now has a hybrid version

The boot space is huge as a 5-seater and still apt as a 7-seater

The boot space is huge as a 5-seater and still apt as a 7-seater

Panoramic views: there are so many extras in the Sorento

Panoramic views: there are so many extras in the Sorento

Interior dreams: comfort, style and tech in abundance

Interior dreams: comfort, style and tech in abundance

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PLUG-IN BABY: The Sorento now has a hybrid version

What’s your favourite car? is a motor journalist’s least favourite question; it is infuriatingly vague.

There are so many variables at play on both sides of the conundrum. In truth, I could give you a dozen or so different answers based on the person asking the question.

I could easily say a Ferrari Monza SP2 or a top of the range Volvo XC90 or why stop there and just go all out on a BMW X7? I could list off a handful of classic cars like the Isetta, the Messerschmitt KR200 or the E-Type. And I’ve always been inexplicably partial to a bright yellow first-gen Dodge Viper. It’s a loaded question with so many potential answers that it can’t be answered easily.

That doesn’t make the question go away though. So, for the last couple of years I have quite simply said The Skoda Kodiaq. I can’t find a fault in it. Genuinely. Car people know why I say it. Others can be shocked and may need more convincing, but after years of making the same speech within a minute or two I can turn them.

But last month I got behind the wheel of a test car and now I have a new answer.

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Panoramic views: there are so many extras in the Sorento

Panoramic views: there are so many extras in the Sorento

Panoramic views: there are so many extras in the Sorento

The Kia Sorento PHEV is everything I want in a car (size, strength, safety, economy, a hybrid powertrain, comfort, fun, looks, speed and riddled with tech). For starters just look at it. Gone are the old rounded MPV looks and now we have a gigantic SUV-style vehicle. There is nothing boring or dated about the design. It is long, wide and most importantly high; and sitting on these scrumptious 19” alloys instantly catapults it to the upper echelons of the all-important ‘best looking car’ lists.

The fourth iteration of the popular seven-seater is now well and truly a premium family SUV and no one can take that away from it.

Incredibly, even though it looks much bigger than the third version it is actually the exact same length. But luckily for us the designers had a few eureka moments and have created an altogether more handsome car. Kia has slightly widened and raised the car, but the biggest structural change is in the wheelbase, to the benefit of space in the front two rows.

Full confession…I’m a Kia owner. There is a gorgeous 171 Sportage in my driveway every single night. So, I am overly-familiar with how a Kia interior can look and feel. Every Kia I’ve driven since I bought the car (a Stinger, a Ceed, an XCeed, a Stonic, the Proceed and the e-Niro) is quickly compared to our Sportage. There are similarities throughout each of them but Kia also knows that every model deserves its own identity.

And with each year and refreshed look it just keeps on getting better. So, with hand on heart I tell you that this is one of the best interiors on the market. Everything you want is right there and they even throw in a few things you don’t need nor want but are brilliantly fun and unique.

The digital instruments are encased in a beautifully designed piano black panel that also wraps around the widescreen infotainment. There is very little that wows motor journalists these days as most gimmicks and gadgets have been tried and tested, and ultimately copied…but Kia has impressively offered you a live crystal clear full HD video view of your blind spot and is displayed in a perfect circle as soon as you indicate to turn. It’s the ‘extra’ I never knew I wanted.

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Interior dreams: comfort, style and tech in abundance

Interior dreams: comfort, style and tech in abundance

Interior dreams: comfort, style and tech in abundance

The steering wheel is big and cumbersome and hard to take your hands off and is wrapped in high-quality leather and the switchgear is both easy and pleasant to use. Notable highlights include the heated seat buttons and the textured plastic trim dotted around.

I haven’t even got to the space yet. Jesus, there’s loads of it; and it’s everywhere. Between the front seats is a big under-arm box to complement the ample storage space ahead of that, while the door pockets are also bigger than necessary.

As any parent will attest to…row two is almost as important as row one. If the kids are happy, the parents are happy. In the Sorento the second row of seats can accommodate three adults thanks to the width of the car and an almost-flat floor. So, you can imagine how comfortable our two girls (10& 7) were back there. There are neat USB ports positioned on the sides of the front seats, too, along with electric controls for the passenger seat that the driver can access.

And then there is row 3…the holy grail of family driving. Seven-seaters always go down well in Team Keany with negotiations starting about who can use the back row and when, as soon as I pull into the driveway.

The back row here is one of the easiest to access of all the seven-seaters on the market and there is still a decent boot too (you could fit groceries but probably not buggies or golf clubs etc). They aren’t designed for adults to sit in them comfortably for any great length of time. But the kids had loads of room and fun back there and were afforded their own climate control access as well as USB ports, if needed.

Oh, and if you think the kids are too far away to chat to –Kia has brilliantly incorporated a microphone system so that the driver can chat to the third row without raising your voice.

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The boot space is huge as a 5-seater and still apt as a 7-seater

The boot space is huge as a 5-seater and still apt as a 7-seater

The boot space is huge as a 5-seater and still apt as a 7-seater

I haven’t even got to the best bit. This beast is now a plug-in hybrid which means that the vast majority of the urban driving and school runs can be done without using a single drop of fuel.

Kia claims you can get 57km from a full charge. In truth I only managed 51-52km but I feel that was down to my driving. It is still higher than most PHEV ranges.

Even when driving in ICE mode you can still expect an impressive 6-6.5 litres/100km, which when you consider the size of vehicle is not bad at all.

Which brings me to the asking price…and the only reason there won’t be more of them on Irish roads over the coming years. You can expect to fork out around €50k for a Sorento PHEV (my test model was closer to €60k) which means it is going to alienate a lot of family car buyers.

But if you can stretch to it you won’t regret it. You still get Kia’s market-beating 7 year warranty and the Sorento is built to last. You might even be thinking about heading down a full EV route in the coming years but in the mean time you want to give a PHEV a try. If you can afford it then the Sorento has to be on your shortlist.

So what’s my favourite car? It’s not an easy one but my new go-to answer is the Kia Sorento PHEV.

@Daragh_Keany

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